For serious. This is your ad campaign, Brooklyn Industries?
S mad D, southern style with a side of grits. This is ludicrous. And not for the reason you think. Although, the fact that the words “Jungle Fever” are plastered over every picture in this ad campaign is obnoxious. It’s like, “LOOK! THEY’RE INTERRACIAL AND FUCKING. AND THIS BLACK DUDE IS WEARING SANDALS! WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU SAW A BLACK DUDE WEARING SANDALS??? DO YOU SEE THIS SHIT?”* Um, yes, I have. I have ESPN, so I’ve seen my fair share of Black dudes rocking sandals while walking around with their White girlfriends and wives.
Despite this foolishness, the whole race thing is not where my outrage lies. It’s the fact that Brooklyn Industries just took the title from one Spike Lee’s movies and slapped it on their fashion collection and go, “See? We referenced something smart, so that makes us smart because we used Google.” But before I continue, a little background.
Yesterday, BI officially launched their nationwide 2012 summer collection called “Jungle Fever” to reflect the race struggles in America by having an impossibly good-looking Black guy and White woman get their mean mugging faces on while the sun glistens off their perfectly toned bodies, you know like in the plot of Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. Except that wasn’t the plot of the movie. The plot was that Wesley Snipes is a married architect and ponders having an affair with a White co-worker (Annabella Scoirra) and fears the backlash for entering an interracial relationship. Heavy stuff, right? Except that the subplot is even heavier because Snipes’ brother, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is a crackhead and dies. Brooklyn Industries, you have any cute totes bags that symbolize drug addiction and dying in Ruby Dee’s arms?
But nuh-uh, BI’s not having my snark and their press release is supposed to be the equivalent of “return to sender” on said snark:
The Brooklyn Industries summer 2012 collection is more than just powerful prints and the perfect pant for the season, it is about sparking an internal revolution. A revolution in oneself that forces us to examine the state of the community that inspires us and delve deeper than what is visible at the surface. Despite the strides we’ve made within the community, it is our goal to continuously examine, discover and seek out positive change in the jungle we call Brooklyn.
Oooooooookay, can we ctrl + alt + del the self-importance here? How does a woman looking sassy with a duck lip pout spark an internal revolution? What positive change are we supposed to enact because we’re wearing – gasp – plaids and striped cardis in the summertime? BI should just call a spade a spade and admit that they knew showing an interracial couple with the words “jungle fever” would get people’s attention and maybe even spark an internet backlash, which would only bring them more web traffic. A win-win situation for them. I understand that ad campaigns are supposed to sell products, so people will buy them, however, using Lee’s film, which is a work of art, as supposed inspiration for selling seventy dollar dresses is ridiculous and anyone with half an ounce of sense knows there isn’t a logical connection between Jungle Fever and this 2012 summer collection.
Clearly, Brooklyn Industries isn’t the first company to reference a true work of art a sly way of proclaiming their wares is also a true work of art and they won’t be the last, yet, it’s this continual laziness that drives me crazy. We’re so continent with just regurgitating, in diluted forms, smart ideas and great art we’ve digested and passed of as, “See, I get it. I really do.” This summer collection is really nothing more than a CliffNotes version about one part in the giant issue of race and interracial couples in this country. BI continues in their press release:
The topic of racism in the United States remained a thorn in his side [Brooklyn Industries Creative Director Vahap Avsar] throughout the years and for Brooklyn Industries Summer 2012 season, he was both inspired and driven to utilize the brand’s collection as a platform to spark a dialogue about the state of race relations in the United States and more specifically, Brooklyn.
This campaign, and perhaps no fashion campaign is going to spark a dialogue about race relations in the USA. I think Aysar is smart enough to know that yet, yet lazy enough to essentially say, “Do you like Spike Lee’s movies without all the ‘White people don’t give a shit about Black people’ vibes AND a sensible dressy yet casual slack? Then Brooklyn Industries is where you should be. Viva la Revolución!” This campaign is the equivalent of people texting donations from their phones, “My thumbs are really serious about this cause, but like the rest of me is really serious about this guacamole I’m eating right now. Huh? What’s that? Kony who?” Bottom line, Brooklyn Industries, if you’re going to be shameless to try and garner attention, just do it and own it. Don’t give me your Freshman 101 regurgitation about race in America. That’s what Twitter is for.
To be quite honest and less flippant, having a half-Black president has and will spark more conversation than any t-shirt clad models ever will. And that is not a slight against the fashion industry, but a cold hard truth as evidenced by the fact that even though this summer collection was soft-launched in major cities (where fashion really matters) a few weeks ago, most media outlets completely ignored the “Jungle Fever” campaign. Which I imagine is the opposite of what they wanted. Who wants to be ignored? No one does, certainly not Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
But getting back to the point. Mr. Avsar, what would have been a more daring and attention grabbing campaign is just showing these two being a couple without mentioning that they are interracial. Normalize it because interracial couples are normal. Other perceived “normal couples” like an all-white couple, for example, isn’t presented in an ad with the word WASPS plastered over their flat front khakis. The couple just is. The statement is their “isness.” As someone in an interracial relationship, I’m not constantly belaboring the issue of race or the fact that I’m dating a White man. I’m frankly too busy living to stop and make a statement. Perhaps, the statement is in the living that I do. That is really the next step that America needs to take. Live the statements instead of trying to always force a statement to be made. Similarly, I truly believe that is what art is. At least the good stuff. It just is, even when the intention is to make a statement, and that “isness” is all you need. No gimmicks, no tomfoolery, no wink-wink.
*On Brooklyn Industries’ Facebook page, they didn’t crop the picture and removed the words “Jungle Fever,” so you can see the full outfits: